Debit Card vs ATM is there a difference?

Old May 26th, 2006, 08:56 AM
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Debit Card vs ATM is there a difference?

After reading all the advice on this forum about travelers checks, I have decided to have my bank send me a debit card. My bank offers two choices a debit card or an ATM card. My understanding is that a debit card does everything an ATM card does but can also be used for purchases. Is this correct? Is there any reason why I would only want an ATM card and not the debit card? For example are the fees higher if I use a debit card to get money from an ATM machine? I realize this probably sounds very naive to all the experienced travellers, but I haven't been to Europe in over 20 years and from what I recall this was not as complicated!
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:04 AM
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The debit card carries more convenience but also more risk, as anyone can use the card at merchants where the equipment gives the option to use as 'credit' without entering a PIN. So you need to safeguard it as you would an actual credit card.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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The costs should be exactly the same. A debit card is just an ATM card w/ a visa logo. So as you guessed - it can be used anywhere Visa is accepted. The only real downside to a debit card is that if you lose it it can be used to make purchases w/o a PIN. But you are covered for fraudulent usage so while inconvenient to straighten out, it wouldn'ty cost you anything.

If you have other credit cards - then an ATM-only card would be OK. But I feel better having a debit card as a sort of back up credit card.

Not really that much difference though.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:05 AM
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Hi, in Canada your bank card is your debit card for purchases and you use the same card at an ATM (Automated Teller Machine) to withdraw cash. My card allowed me to withdraw euros easily in Europe but I've heard not all do. Check with your bank that it can be used internationally and you'll be all set.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:10 AM
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Thanks for the info. It sounds like a debit card it is!
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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As noted, the only downside of a debit card is that if the number is stolen, and unfortunately this is rampant in Europe (example waiters run your card through their own little card readers and are paid by the swine in Eastern Europe or in Nigeria who run these credit card theft rings) your card can be counterfeited and before you know it your bank account is emptied...it's happening quite a bit.

If this happens to you with a debit card, yes they will put the money back in time (it varies by bank) but until the money is restored some of your checks and/or payments can turn to rubber...with a credit card it creates a bill that has to be dealth with but actual money does not leave your account.

Personally I wouldn't want to use a debit card for that reason but to each his or her own.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 09:33 AM
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Thanks for the advice. I think I will plan to use credit cards or cash for any transactions where someone else will be handling my card and just use the debit card when I need to get money from the ATM.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 10:12 AM
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I don't have a debit card and don't particularly want one, but I agree it will do everything an ATM card does. The only risk is someone getting the number and using it, as said -- there are bank protections on that, but it can drain your account in the meantime. As long as you are careful with it, shouldn't be a big problem -- there are places you can use a debit card without a PIN, that's why that can happen.

YOu really need to check with your bank as to fees, also, just in case they have different fees for cash withdrawal on a debit card vs. ATM card. My bank doesn't (but they do have 3 pct fees if you use a debit card for a purchase).

Banks mainly push debit cards because it is financially advantageous to them, not you. Somehow the transactions cost the bank less if you use a debit card compared to ATM card.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 12:59 PM
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My local bank issues an ATM card that becomes a debit card if I call and authorize the change; I haven't.

My other bank issues a separate ATM card; I don't know what they do if I want a debit card, as I don't.

My protection against anyone wiping out my account by stealing my ATM card and password, is to keep almost no money in the checking account associated with the card. When I need folding cash, I go online and transfer some money into the checking account, then withdraw it using the ATM card. I think that would also protect me if I had a debit card, but I don't see the advantage of using a debit card for purchases, when I can use a credit card and not have to pay until the due date of my statement; don't tell my wife, she might try to make me rich by spending more!
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Old May 26th, 2006, 01:16 PM
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NOW HEAR THIS: These "drain your bank account" stories are overblown. As a practical matter, your money is protected by the daily limit that you and your bank put on withdrawals. As soon as you report a card lost or stolen, nothing can be taken out of your account by anyone but you.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 01:25 PM
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There have been enough reports of accounts being drained that saying the problem is overblown is ignorant.

While there is a limit on cash withdrawals, a debit card can also be used for purchases, with a substantially higher limit, and there is protection, to be sure, but only after you jump through a lot of hoops just when you need your money.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 01:52 PM
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Ignorant?

As a Visa/Master Card/American Express/Discover/Carte Blanche/Diners Club merchant since 1991, I do profess some expert knowledge in this area.

Not only do the card issuers limit the amount that can go through the card in a day, they also run "velocity" checks in an effort to detect unusual spending patterns. When a card is acting funny, the terminal says SEE ID which cues the merchant to make sure that the person using the card is the owner.

"Drain your account" stories are overblown.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 02:20 PM
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bookmarking, thanks
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Old May 26th, 2006, 02:51 PM
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Quite frankly, I see nothing wrong with getting the ATM-only card for cash and a credit card or two for purchases. I can always in a pinch--albeit with a high fee--use my credit card for cash withdrawals should the ATM card not work, and I don't risk anyone purchasing things with an ATM VISA/Mastercard. I would prefer that my "cash card" remain just that--a cash card.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 03:14 PM
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Robespierre...

Is it overblown...well as a great American politician once said, "It depends what you mean by overblown?"
If it happens to you, it's a tragedy...if it happens to the other guy, well it's not something that happens to lots of people, right.

Again, and perhaps it's just me, I see no advantage whatsoever in using the debit card for purchases...using a credit card for purchases gives you a float of anything from a few days to almost 2 months...and as noted if, although it might be overblown, somebody clones your card, use of a credit card basically creates a bill which can be dealt with fairly easily...yes it might require changing some of your monthly payments charged to the card and that can be a pain, but for the most part with a telephone call or two and a letter, the problem goes away and you're not out any real money.

OTOH if something goes wrong with a debit card, and the fraud protections don't work, you're out real money. I have no doubts it will be replaced, perhaps within a week, but until it does any checks you may have out turn to worthless piece of paper.

Now there are ways around it such as setting up a specific account simply for travel and not using the cards attached to your primary checking account but the bottom line is still the same...

And please, I have always wondered this, why would anybody want to use a debit card for purchases instead of a credit card and have the money pulled out of your account immediately instead of dealing with a bill a month or two later.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 03:20 PM
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Why? So you don't have to deal with a bill a month or two later.

I would rather not have to think about it. The money is spent as soon as you use a credit card. (If you don't think of it that way, you probably need to.) If I missed just one payment by a few days, I'd get nailed for fifty bucks interest and penalties. And for what? None for me, thanks.

As far as the "fraud protections not working" - trust me, the card issuers have a large-dollar stake in making sure they DO work. Because in certain scenarios, they have to eat the charges.

Once more: a checking account can't be "wiped out" by fraudulent use of a debit card.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 03:50 PM
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Unfortunately, to state dogmatically a checking account cannot be wiped out by fraudulent use of a debit card is simply not true...there are loads of examples reported on various web sites where it has happened.

I have much more protection with a credit card than a debit card especially in disputes with merchants where money has not been taken out of my account yet.

I will agree with you that fraud protection is getting better and I have never missed a payment on a credit card as I know exactly when they are coming and can easily check on line.

Remember, never say never...unlikely I might accept but never...read about those British people who recently found their checking accounts compromised by misuse of their debit cards which were cloned at Shell stations and then used in Asia to withdraw from their accounts. Unfortunately, it happens.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 04:02 PM
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Okay, I will concede that point.

But if you're not a Brit using a debit at a Shell station...
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Old May 26th, 2006, 04:19 PM
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Having had my credit card number (not the card itself, just the number) stolen while traveling, I personally wouldn't consider carrying a debit card.

Why would I want to risk even having a penny fraudulently withdrawn from my bank account and have to deal with getting the funds back at all? All I see is greater risk with no benefit to me.

I have no problems keeping track of my credit card spending (nothing goes on my cards without the cash to back it up) and haven't missed a payment in the 15 years since I applied for my first card. With online access it's easier than ever now to keep track. You can even set up email alerts to remind you of a payment date.
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Old May 26th, 2006, 04:51 PM
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"I have no problems keeping track of my credit card spending (nothing goes on my cards without the cash to back it up) and haven't missed a payment in the 15 years since I applied for my first card. With online access it's easier than ever now to keep track. You can even set up email alerts to remind you of a payment date."

I rest my case.

I guess if your last penny is in the checking account behind your debit card, the equation looks a little different than it does to me.
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